I offer this song from Philadelphia singer/songwriter Jim Boggia to honor the news this week that Funai, the last company still making new VHS machines, has announced it will stop making new VHS machines. I am unhappy with this news because I happen to still use VHS. As a matter of fact I have two machines: one built-in to a 13-inch TV that I inherited/stole when a company I was working for in the early 2000’s went belly-up, and one a combo DVD/VCR player I bought about five years ago. Sure, I sometimes program AM instead of PM and mistakenly end up recording “The View,” and sure, I sometimes lose the last five minutes of movies that extend over two hours…but I’m used to this! It’s part of the game! I don’t want to have to give my %$%&%%$ cable company more money for Tivo or whatever they’re calling their digital recording technology these days!
My only consolation is that Funai sold 750,000 of them last year so there must be a small constituency out there for someone else to take advantage of. I figure if my machines hold up for three more years I’ll by then be able to buy an artisanal VHS machine at Newbury Comics or a retro VHS machine at Sharper Image. VHS will endure! Maybe I’ll go into business on it myself…
The 8 tracks celebrated in this rocking tune, on the other hand, have always sucked and are never coming back. As those of us of a certain age know, 8 tracks were really four tracks or segments, all of equal length, which meant songs sometimes needed to fade in and out or there could be long silences at the end of a track or…I’ll let Boggia explain it:
Sometimes the way the music played it came out different on the 8 track
They did a lot of crazy thing to make the record fit the format
They moved the songs around to do the math
Sometimes they even cut the songs in half…
My memories of Neil Diamond Gold and Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits come with such skewed song order and chopped-in–the-middle songs. And 8 track was still my choice in 1978, which means I possess a well-curated collection of early punk in this outmoded format, the Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, the Talking Heads. I tried to get my son to sell these on eBay and he said, “Dad, no one wants them.” I do not believe him and am open to offers.
Back to this song. For two and a half of its three minute running time Boggia goes on about how much he loved listening to 8 tracks with his big sister and it’s hard not to cast a skeptical glance and think, you idiot, there’s no way you could have been alive when 8 tracks were popular! It feels Woody Allen-ish, nostalgia for a time he didn’t live through.
But then he stops the song like an 8-track stopping at the end of one its tracks and admits:
I made this all up because I was too young
But it still it seems like it was lots of fun
It wasn’t, it wasn’t. Cassettes, though. They were great.